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What’s Happening: Bobby Neugin & his son Jeramy Neugin are father-&-son Native American illusionists who perform as Lost City Magic!
It’s all in the line of duty, but:
Jeramy Neugin has been stung by wasps & bitten by snakes.
He has taken bites of razor blades.
His dad sets him ablaze.
“I put a box on Jeramy’s head,” his father, Bobby, said. “It’s got a little door in the front. You can open the door & see Jeramy’s face. I will stick a napkin over his face & I will shoot the top of that box full of lighter fluid & set it on fire. When I open that door, his face is burnt to a skull. Then the magic is I’ve got to bring his head back.”
Sometimes, Jeramy will slice his father’s arm & scorpions will crawl from the wound.
This is the family business.
Performing as Lost City Magic (named after the Cherokee County community they call home), Bobby & Jeramy are a Native American father-&-son magician team. They strive not just to entertain but to expose people to their heritage.
Their illusions are linked to Cherokee lore (including the “little people”), they perform tricks with wasps & snakes. That means they need live props.
“We can’t go to the pet shop & buy a scorpion or a black snake, but we can go out here in the woods & find them,” Jeramy said.
They can usually find a snake when they need one, according to Bobby. How? “Ask anybody around here that raises chickens,” Jeramy said. “We always make sure to release them back where we found them afterward too”
Bobby has been interested in magic for a long time, dabbling here & there. Magic didn’t become his profession until the past few years — it happened out of necessity.
“Whenever we first started this, we were doing construction work,” he said. “We were out in North Carolina building custom homes. That was paying really well, then that shut off & I realized how easy something like that can be over. When 9/11 happened, it shut down all the investors. It’s like turning the water off on a tap. It shut it off, there wasn’t work anywhere to be had.”
Bobby pitched this challenge to Jeramy: Find us something we can do that doesn’t involve construction.
“He was talking about his age, how he couldn’t do the hard, physical stuff anymore,” Jeramy said. “And while we were doing that we were doing coin tricks.”
So, he said, “Let’s do magic.”
He could have suggested 100 other things. Why magic? “Because the stripping didn’t pan out & we didn’t get a single call as a male escort,” Jeramy said, smiling.
Bobby loved the magic idea. Now they look back and they see “clues” that pushed them down this path. Bobby has made a living as a bootmaker, a creator of horse-drawn buggies & blacksmith. Now he feels like he & his son have found their calling — & their niche in the magic world.
Bobby and Jeramy have staged shows throughout the area. Here’s the problem if you are a couple of Lost City dudes who do magic in the Bible Belt: “Either you are not good enough,” Bobby said, “or, if you are too good, then you are in league with the devil.”
Said Bobby: “We did a school show one night for some high school kids, and Jeramy did a trick for one of the teachers. After the trick was over, it had scared her so bad she left.”
Bobby and Jeramy try to weigh which illusions are appropriate for their audiences.
Among their illusions: bringing live swarms of wasps to life from a handful of dirt, pulling live snakes from drawings and trapping demons in dreamcatchers
Here’s another obstacle: Business was great after they (and a few wasps) auditioned for “America’s Got Talent.” But they billed their act as a “full Indian show” and bookings died.
Jeramy adjusted promotional verbiage to reflect they were doing magic based on “old West” legends, instead of Native American legends. They started getting calls again.
“That’s just here,” he said. “The further we get from here (the more interested people seem to be in the Native American aspect). Just going across the border into Arkansas, they had people from all over come and see us. Over there we weren’t Indian enough. … They wanted the full buckskins and the whole thing.”
“Old Indian legends again, you don’t destroy what has been good to you,” Bobby said.
The Lost City magicians were encouraged by their “America’s Got Talent” audition (“I thought we did a lot better than the acts that were auditioning with us,” Bobby said), and they have ventured to magician-thick cities to see how they compare. They’ve seen the kind of money big-time magicians make, and they wouldn’t mind earning a slice.
“I have never studied so hard in my life,” Bobby said.
The homework is never-ending. They’re always diving into books and videos so they can come up with ways to top themselves. If Bobby sees a great magic trick on TV, he dares Jeramy to figure it out so they can add a variation to their act.
Instead of having a “wow” trick at the end of a show, their goal is to have an act full of “wow” moments — even if it means a father must set his son’s head on fire.
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